Gosnells Community Legal Centre relieved by reversal of funding cuts

Stock image.
Stock image.

GOSNELLS Community Legal Centre is relieved by a reversal in funding cuts to its sector.

The Federal Government announced last Monday it would reverse the 30 per cent cut to Commonwealth funding for Community Legal Centres (CLC), which was due to begin on July 1.

It also agreed to provide CLC with $39 million in additional funding over the next three years under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

In addition, the announcement included an additional $16.7 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS).

The State Government also pledged about $1.2 million to the community legal sector, which provide free legal help to disadvantaged West Australians.

Gosnells Community Legal Centre acting manager Lorraine Taylor said the proposed cuts would have the biggest impact on staff, leading to a drop in quality advice.

“It would’ve affected a range of staff in terms of redundancies or reduced hours across the board,” she said.

“We knew it would have a very devastating effect on our ability to retain staff, no organisation can absorb that much of a hit and not have a serious impact.”

Ms Taylor said the rising price of legal fees meant it was vital CLC around the country remained well-funded.

“Legal aid is under incredible stress to provide free services to people who can’t afford legal assistance,” she said.

“Lawyers are becoming unaffordable and access to justice is affected because people aren’t able to get the advice they need, they go to court unrepresented and there’s all sorts of bad outcomes from that.

“Probably the majority of people, not just the people on low or Centrelink incomes, but even people on median incomes can’t afford $300-400 an hour or more for a lawyer.”

She said while the reversal would not necessarily ensure all CLC would receive exactly the same money as previously, she expected the figures to be similar.